Union Battling Citi over Shift to Cheaper Cleaning Contractor

Article excerpt

A unit of the AFL-CIO is taking on the nation's biggest banking company in one of the most publicized and sharpest-toned labor disputes to emerge in New York City in years.

The Service Employees International Union, in a campaign that has entered public consciousness through leafletting and newspaper advertising, is charging Citicorp with unscrupulous hiring policies that lower living standards for minorities.

The contentions came into view earlier this year when Service Employees' Local 32B-32J used posters in the New York subways and at bus stops to make its allegations in both English and Spanish.

The dispute centers on a move by Citicorp to replace its longstanding, union-affiliated cleaning staff with Golden Mark, an out-of-town contractor that the bank says is affiliated with AFL-CIO Local 445.

Hoping to turn the public against Citicorp, Local 32B-32J also threw into its communications the fact that Citibank has gotten low ratings on its pricing - both account fees and deposit interest rates - from the New York City Public Advocate, a government agency.

Golden Mark, according to Local 32B-32J, pays its predominantly Hispanic and African-American workers around $6 an hour, compared with the $13 paid to Service Employees International Union members. The latter union estimates that it represents about 70,000, mostly minority building service workers in New York City, Long Island, and northern New Jersey.

The union recently extended its campaign to advertisements in The New York Times and New York Daily News and has begun handing out fliers around New York City, asking residents not to patronize Citicorp.

"We're trapped in a dispute between two unions," said Susan Weeks, a Citicorp spokeswoman. …